The history of laser hair removal is similar to that of many other aesthetic innovations. First, a scientist develops a compound or technology for healthcare, aerospace, or military applications.
Then, enterprising dermatologists, plastic surgeons, or other professionals working in medical aesthetics find a way to apply that new discovery to a different cause: Making people happier with their appearance.
The Race to the First Laser
In the beginning, there was a race to see who could develop the first laser, with different research teams working on laser projects in universities all over the US, Russia, and elsewhere. Their goal was to create a machine that could amplify light to create one extremely powerful and controlled beam that would produce light at a single wavelength.
The first laser was built by engineer and physicist Theodore Maiman, based on theories developed by physicists Charles H. Townes and Arthur Leonard Schawlow. In fact, some would argue it was Townes who invented the laser since he was the first person to patent plans for how a laser could be built in April 1959.
But the first actual, physical laser was built by Maiman, using ruby to amplify the light of a powerful flash lamp. Soon, his creation was replicated and further developed by many other engineers and physicists all over the world.
Those first lasers were immediately used in healthcare, research, and other industries. Being able to emit light at a single frequency allows for a level of precision with wide-ranging and diverse applications. One of those applications, of course, is laser hair removal.
The Evolution of Laser Hair Removal Technology
The practice of using laser technology in healthcare was largely furthered by dermatologist Dr. Leon Goldman, dubbed the “Father of Laser Medicine”. As early as the 1960s, soon after the invention of the first lasers, he was advocating for the use of the technology in surgery and researching its impact on skin pigment.
As laser technology was being researched for its applications in dermatology, many started exploring its usefulness as a tool for hair removal.
The early lasers all had relatively short wavelengths, meaning that they were not yet able to penetrate the skin sufficiently, leading to a higher risk of injury.
That changed in the ‘90s when various lasers had already been around for decades. Researchers at Harvard studied using a ruby laser for hair removal and went on to test other types of lasers.
The first FDA-approved laser hair removal device was developed by a company called Thermolase, based on Nd:YAG technology combined with a carbon-based lotion that would direct the laser toward the hair follicle. But the results weren’t permanent, despite what the company advertised, which led to a lawsuit.
Throughout the 90s and 2000s, other companies released FDA-approved laser hair removal devices based on other types of laser technologies, including ruby, diode, and alexandrite. Soon enough, many salons started offering laser hair removal services, while researchers continued to test ways to improve the effectiveness of the treatment.
Laser Hair Removal Technology Today and in the Future
Today, laser hair removal technology has come a long way. We’re able to offer laser hair removal to customers with any skin type, including those with darker skin who historically could not be treated.
The procedure is faster than it ever was, and service providers have more control over its intensity level. We’re able to see an extreme reduction in hair growth within just a few treatments! Cooling attachments help to reduce discomfort, making the treatment nearly painless.
But there’s still room to grow! Laser hair removal is classified by the FDA as a permanent hair reduction method. While it has a high success rate, it’s not 100%, and some patients may still experience a bit of regrowth many years after treatment.
At the moment, laser hair removal cannot work on very light blonde, red, or white hair, but hopefully, that will change in the future. We also look forward to developments when it comes to home hair removal devices. At the moment, there are many Intense Pulsed Light devices approved for home use, but they don’t have the same level of efficacy as lasers.
At SEV, we pride ourselves on using the latest, most cutting-edge laser hair removal devices from pioneering manufacturers like Candela and Cynosure. If you’d like to experience the incredible developments in laser technology and start your journey towards hair-free skin, go ahead and book your appointment.